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Beating the flu

22 February 2018

Flu Influenza SHIVERS 2018
Flu Influenza SHIVERS 2018

Building on the success of the previous SHIVERS study conducted in Auckland from 2012-2017, ESR has won an international flu contract from the United States National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, part of the U.S. National Institutes of Health, through the St. Jude Center of Excellence for Influenza Research and Surveillance (SJCEIRS) in Memphis, USA.

SHIVERS-II will focus on peoples’ immune responses to the flu infection and flu vaccinations. The information will help public health officials in both the Southern and Northern hemispheres regarding the timing and type of flu vaccinations to recommend. It may also lead to better flu vaccines in the future.

SHIVERS-II is an international multi-disciplinary and multi-agency collaboration, including ESR, SJCEIRS, the Universities of Auckland and Otago, Regional Public Health, the Capital Coast District Health Board, Compass Health, and participating Wellington general practices.

2,500 Wellingtonians aged from 20 to 69 years will take part in this observational study over 2018. Before the winter, participants will answer a short questionnaire and provide a blood sample. During winter, they will receive a text or email weekly asking about influenza-like illness (ILI) symptoms and whether they have had a flu vaccine. For those with ILI or vaccine, a nose swab and blood will be collected. After the winter, participants will provide a final blood sample.

The New Zealand Principal Investigator of SHIVERS-II, ESR’s Dr Sue Huang, says “this type of information is critical for improving seasonal influenza control and pandemic preparedness.  We hope to understand host immune responses and identify better immune diagnostic markers. This will shed more light on the development of better future vaccines such as universal flu vaccines. It will make a difference to the way influenza is managed in the future, both in New Zealand and globally.”

“I am really thrilled to receive this award. It shows international confidence in the New Zealand health system and the quality of our previous SHIVERS results as well as this research proposal,” says Dr Huang.